Johnny Silvo

Johnny Silvo


Johnny Silvo, born John Frederick Woods, on December 2, 1936, in Wimbledon, south-west London. Silvo was the son of an African-American soldier who was serving in Ireland, and his County Mayo girlfriend, who, unmarried, fled to London to give birth to her son. She was killed in wartime bombings.

Johnny Silvo performed in British folk clubs for more than 45 years. His wide-ranging repertoire, which spanned traditional and contemporary British and American folk songs, blues, jazz and country, enjoyed great popularity in the folk revival of the 1960s and 70s.

Silvo was featured alongside Sandy Denny on her first two recordings, a couple of years before she brought her distinctive voice to Fairport Convention's journey into folk music. Silvo and Denny were both heard on the album Alex Campbell and His Friends in 1967 and, later in the year, a joint album, Sandy and Johnny, had tracks from each singer.

image He later formed the Johnny Silvo Folk Group, one of whose members was the bass player Dave Moses, and then the two men formed a duo which performed in British folk clubs, in cabaret and on the radio, and toured Europe, north and south America and Africa. They made several recordings, including Live from London (1973).

Although the duo with Moses continued off and on for many years, Silvo established his solo career from the mid-70s, with albums including Time Enough to Spare (1977) and In the Spotlight (1983). In 1999 he recorded Blues in the Backyard, a joint album of classic blues songs with Diz Disley.

In the 1970s Silvo appeared on the children's television programme Play School, where his friendly personality and entertaining songs made him a popular presenter. He was also a frequent guest and presenter on BBC radio's Country Meets Folk programme.

British folk clubs and international touring continued, and on a visit to Norway, Silvo met Berit, whom he married in the mid-80s. He moved to Stavanger, Norway, returning regularly to tour British folk clubs and festivals. He also performed in Norway in a trio, The Life of Reily. In the last couple of years, he appeared at folk festivals in Fylde, Lancashire, and Saltburn, Teesside. His most recent album, I'll Fly Away (2006), was released on the Folksound label and included, again, the popular "Midnight Special".

Johnny Silvo died of cancer, at the age 75, on December 18, 2011.

Source: The Guardian